IELTS READING Diagram Labelling

An Introduction to Diagram Labelling

IELTS reading Diagram Labelling is one of the five different question types in the IELTS Academic/General reading test module. It is also considered a scoring section as the nature of the question type is very interesting and interactive to the test taker. It might not appear in some tests as it is not a mandatory question type. The examiners who set the question paper decide whether this would be apt for certain content and then decide to adhere to this type of question.

Pointers to look out in IELTS reading diagram labelling:

  • The candidate must make sure that he/she has read and understood the heading that is present above the diagram.

For example, choose one word from the passage for each answer. In this case, even hyphenated words are considered one-word answers as the rules of English go. Hyphenated words are not two words but one word in the IELTS exam.

  • It is very critical that the test taker follow the instructions given.

For example, Write the answers in boxes 20-26 on your answer sheet.

This means that the test taker must transfer the answers to an answer sheet that is provided in the exam in the right boxes.

  • There will always be an average of 2 question types to answer per passage. Diagram Labelling will be one of it and the other might be a True, False, Not given, or a Fill in the blanks depending on how the paper is set.

Execution techniques

Even though there are a plethora of tips and tricks to score full marks in this question type, some of them remain tried and tested methods that can be easily used by the test taker. A lot of solving techniques are available for free from online sites such as YouTube created by various online trainers. The candidate should make sure that he/she follows one methodology which suits the most and not confuses between two or more methods.


Source: IELTS 11 Academic, Reading passage 2/Test 1

Tips and Tricks:

  • Diagram Labelling will always follow an order. This means the answer to the second question will always precede the answer to the first. For instance, the second line in a paragraph will have the answer to the first diagram labelling question and the fourth line in the same paragraph will have the answer to the second diagram labelling question.
  • Look for basic grammar rules in the question. To cite an example, if the question has words like are/were or any plural word, that means that the answer is a plural noun/word.
  • An arrow mark with its head pointed to a certain part of the diagram will be represented. Make sure you look at the where the head is pointed to. Do not generalize the answer.
  • Try to pick out keywords in the question to get your answer or even help to identify the location in the paragraph. Keywords can be numbers, dates, years, a unit of measurement, proper nouns (names of people/places), or a hyphenated word as well.
  • Try to spend less time with this question as it is considered easy given the nature of the task. Time saved can be spent on other question types like Matching the headings.

Time Allocation

Thought both General and Academic reading test have the same number of question (40) and time limit (1 hour), it is important that the candidate follows time strategy in accordance to his/her module. Please refer to the diagram below to get a better understanding of this process.


Time allocation for academic candidates

Passage 1 – 20 minutes

Passage 2 – 20 minutes

Passage 3 – 20 minutes

This includes transfer time as well. The reason why an equal amount of time has to be spent in all three passages is that the length and difficulty level of the passages are all the same.

Time allocation for general candidates

Passage 1 – 15 minutes

Passage 2 – 15 minutes

Passage 3 – 30 minutes

This includes transfer time as well. The reason why more amount of time has to be spent for passage 3 is that the length and difficulty level of that passage is more than the others.

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